Of Apostles and Prophets

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I am spending this weekend in Nicholasville, Ky, with my Archbishop and several clergy friends. We are saying goodby to Fr. David Rucker who will soon take up a position at the Orthodox Christian Mission Center, and we say hello, to Fr. Justin Patterson, my former assistant priest, as the new priest in charge of St. Athanasius in Kentucky. In addition tomorrow, we will see the tonsuring of two men as Readers, another two as Sub-deacons, and another ordained to the Holy Diaconate. My job as Dean of the Appalachian Deanery is mostly to hang around and be overjoyed at all of these wonderful happenings.
But apart from that, I have a very strong vision this night, a reminder of the nature of the Church. St. Paul said the Church was built on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone. Such language can become so encrusted with the centuries of “Scriptural usage” that we forget what it means. That the Church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, for the writer Paul, is nothing other than saying that the Church is built on the foundation of men that he knows. Nor is it any different today. Even though the foundation has been laid, and no other foundation can be laid, other than Christ Jesus, still each course of stone that is laid, is the living stone of the saints. I am witness to the laying of yet another course (this time of ordained ministry) other times of other ministries. I stand in witness to one of the successors of the Apostles and watch him lay yet another layer of the foundation.
The Church, whatever and however we approach it, cannot be other than men and women in the body of Christ. It is not an institution, in any non-personal sense. It is utterly and only personal, being built entirely of persons.
It is this great assemblage of persons that I think about on occasions such as this weekend. Not just the persons that I am sharing these wonderful events with, but with the persons of the Church everywhere. With the parish of St. Anne back home, with my Deanery and Diocese, with the Orthodox Church in America and throughout the world, and the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us at every move. But none of it is other than persons. All of them live and die and live in Christ. Each had nervous days like my own (this weekend). Each had wonderful moments and of great joy. But all of it, is built in the manner that God intended – not of syllogism and statement, but of lives lived in union with Christ. The Church consists of nothing other than that – lives lived in union with Christ. May He bless this wonderful weekend, and the lives of which He is constructing His Church.

9 comments:

  1. The picture is from the website of the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the South. It is of Archbishop DMITRI in some of Texas’ lovely bluebells. I don’t know how they forced him to allow such a picture to be taken – but I love it! Such a successor to the Apostles!

  2. Oh Father,

    Please pass on my heart-felt joy to Fr. David and all the faithful in Nicholasville. There are dear ones to me there and persons to whom I owe a debt of love I can never repay.

    And greet His Eminence as well. I was received into the Church under his watch-care and remain grateful for his hospitality and fatherly love.

    This picture of the Church as persons is so obvious and yet so easy to loose if we allow ourselves the delusion of easier ideals. Persons in communion is much more glorious and much more dangerous and much more difficult than lesser visions.

    Barnabas

  3. Persons in communion–wonderful. I sometimes think that the Church is a living, growing multi-faceted gemstone with each one the persons a facet. We may not fit in with the other facets real easily and we may not shine as brightly as we ought, but with a little jostling around and against the other facets some of the rough edges get knocked off so we fit a little better and the Holy Spirit starts to shine us up.

  4. The Epistle to Barnabas (late first century) uses this very image of the rough stones being smoothed in order to fit. The weekend was incredible (and now I am tired).

  5. Fr. Steven, thanks for your communion with us this weekend! It is so great to know so may love us and pray for us. And thank you for letting us steal Fr. Justin away from you, we know he will be sorely missed.

  6. Nathaniel,

    It truly was a joyful time with all of you all. I’ve rarely had a more full Sunday, in the sense of the “fullness” of things. Tonsurings, ordinations. One priest leaving a wonderful legacy, another beginning a new life. So much. I am glad to have a connection to you all as your Dean, and through the historical ties St. Anne has had with St. Athanasius Church. I know these will continue and only increase.

    I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow (Monday is day off). Maybe reading, even blogging a little if the Spirit moves. But my heart is very full tonight.

  7. I truly appreciate the picture of the bishop among the bluebonnets. As a native Texan, it makes me happy that Orthodoxy has come to Texas. It was here (and has been for a while) but going to St. Seraphim’s over Thanksgiving break and seeing the picture makes it even more real.

  8. Archbishop Dmitri’s story of coming to Orthodoxy in Texas in the 1940’s ranks up there with the great modern conversion stories (like Bishop Kallistos’s Ware’s stumbling into the Vigil to get out of the rain). All that existed in Dallas at that time was Greek (and I mean completely Greek). He and his sister, convinced of Orthodoxy’s truth, primarily from reading encyclopedia articles, were undaunted as they went through weeks of attendance without a single greeting. When they finally were greeted the usher simply told them the priest wanted to speak with them. The priest told them when their instruction for Baptism would begin.

    Vladyka says he was in his early 20’s before he ever heard any of the liturgy in English. There is such evidence of God’s hand in his life. I truly think of him as an Apostle to the South. I relish every chance I have to be with him.

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